Tag Archives: Philip Pullman

What a Way to Go: The Best Fictional Deaths

DeathIn my scribblings, there always seems to be a lot of death. And, as we all know, writing about death is never a pleasant experience. It’s notoriously difficult to write about it without stepping in to the comical, caricature death scene, or making it so dismal it’s easily forgotten. So, as inspiration for that tragic death scene, here are some of the best death scenes in fiction… Continue reading



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A Blank Page

WritingIt’s 6.10am. I’ve just been staring at a blank screen for a good 20 minutes now, and add that on to last night’s staring match, you’ve got yourself a good hour and a half of writing nothing.

Writing is a compulsion for me. It’s strange not to write. But some days, the words just don’t appear. It’s increasingly frustrating as all that energy you had the day before (or even the hour before) has drained away and left you feeling a bit blank. Continue reading

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Neil Gaiman and Meg Rosoff: A Reflection

After the haphazard previous blog post, I have realised that, with reflection and a fortnight’s distance, I would much rather write a full post on the wonderment of the Neil Gaiman/Meg Rosoff talk, the way I imagined it before I crumpled the front of my car … Continue reading

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Grimm Tales: For Young and Old

Grimm Tales: For Young and Old by Philip Pullman

Penguin Classics: hardback published 2012: 421 pages

In this enchanting selection of fairy tales, award-winning author Philip Pullman presents his fifty favourite stories from the Brothers Grimm in a ‘clear as water’ retelling, making them feel fresh and unfamiliar with his dark, distinctive voice. Continue reading

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Rivers of London

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Gollancz: paperback published 2011: 390 pages

This is London as you’ve never seen it before. A city full of wonders and terrors.

London is a city of ancient secrets, a city haunted by its past. A city where you are never far away from the magic.

And now meet the person who will show you the city you never suspected…

My name is Peter Grant, and I used to be a probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service, and to everyone else as the Filth.

My story really starts when I tried to take a witness statement from a man who was already dead.

There is something dark at the heart of the city I love… Continue reading


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The New Grimm

200 years after the Grimm brothers published their collection of dark, eerie fairy tales, Philip Pullman is set to rewrite 50 of his favourite tales. The author of His Dark Materials trilogy will be adapting tales including Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and his personal favourite The Juniper Tree for a book called Grimm Tales for Young and Old, due out in September from Penguin.

Rewritten in “his own voice”, each story will end with notes explaining its meaning and offering alternative versions.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm first published 86 stories in an anthology called Children’s and Household Tales in 1812, with the number of tales growing to over 200 in the following years. Since then, the Grimm fairy tales have spawned novels, TV shows, films and songs by the bucket load. The stories have frightened and enchanted children and adults alike, some of the more popular stories becoming household names and serving as examples to be followed or avoided.

“This is really exciting. Philip Pullman is the right man; he tackles this stuff supremely well… I think these old tales connect with very basic issues. There is something about the stories that, if not eternal, they are certainly classic… Philip Pullman writes stunningly well. He deals with big issues including values and the meaning of life.” — Professor Bill Gray, English Literary History at the University of Chichester, founder of the Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tales and Fantasy and who has written on Mr Pullman

I love the fairy tales – they’re a strong inspiration for any fantasy writing, for a start – even when growing up, I was enthralled by them. Every story was fascinating, no matter how many times I heard it or read it or watched it. I cut my teeth on the fluffy Disney versions, and it wasn’t until my early teens that I realised the dark world of Grimm was quite different to Dopey and Happy and Doc and the rest of those loveable dwarves. This was even better! Not even that appalling The Brothers Grimm film could ruin it (shame it cast two of my favourite actors for it, because otherwise I would never have watched it and never have seen the misery that was that film).

I can’t wait to read these new versions from Philip Pullman (massive fan of the trilogy anyhow, so they’re going to be good!). What’s your favourite fairy tale? What do you think of Philip Pullman’s re-imagining?

As a little side-note, I stumbled across Nerd Blerp‘s blog post about the 7 Grimm fairy tales that should be adapted whilst looking for more information about this story. Clever and absolutely right, I would say, and I recommend you checking it out! (Also, going to credit Nerd Blerp for the beautiful Little Red Riding Hood illustration, though I’m not sure where it came from before that).

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The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Scholastic: paperback published 2011: 454 pages


Winning will make you famous.
Losing means certain death.

In a darek vision of the near future, twelve boys and twelve girls are forced to appear in a live TV show called the Hunger Games. There is only one rule: kill or be killed.

When sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen steps forward to take her sister’s place in the games, she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.

The Hunger Games came to my attention when I realised it was being turned into a film (as derogatory as I am about adaptations, they do wonders for the profile of the book). I also noticed that they were doing “grown up” covers instead of the garish Young Adult covers that are so off-putting when an adult wants to read them in public. So I gave it a go!

I can see why it’s been made in to a film. The novel itself is very visual and reads very much scene-by-scene. My issue came when I realised that I didn’t particularly like the main character –annoyingly, she’s good at everything, and also a bit selfish (which doesn’t make sense as she “sacrifices” herself for her little sister at the beginning). The premise of the story is this: there are twelve districts that every year have to donate a boy and a girl to something called the Hunger Games– where they battle to the death in front of TV cameras. Think Battle Royale crossed with Big Brother and throw in some Lord of the Flies for good measure and you pretty much get the idea. This is, in fact, a BRILLIANT idea for a book. I mean, check out the Peril, the Character Development, the Story Arc. Here’s where it goes wrong… you get a main character who technically you should like, but you simply can’t bring yourself to do it. There’s an awful lot of time discussing what animal she’s hunting or food she’s eating or how quiet she is, or how good with a bow and arrow she is, or how she’s rescuing people all the time. There’s very little emotion – and when there is, it feels very false.

I really enjoyed the book from the viewpoint that a Battle to the Death is the height of TV viewing. You could go in to the philosophical debate of how close we are to this in reality (but Charlie Brooker already did that with his Black Mirror series on the BBC). I didn’t enjoy it because actually, I didn’t really want Kat to win. I got to the end of the book, and even though I wanted to read the two sequels because the writing is good and the premise of the story is great and it could do so well, I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear about how wonderful Kat is – when really, she’s a bit of a cow.

Young Adult fiction is a guaranteed entertaining read (unless you go for an angst-and-drama Twilight rip-off). I still go back to Junk and other teen favourites. Philip Pullman’s trilogy was YA, and The Book Thief was produced as YA too. That’s why I always throw in a YA book to my reading list every now and then –the entertainment factor is often even better than adult fiction. As for The Hunger Games? I hope Kat is nicer in the film.

Rating: 5/10

Next book: I am getting told to read lots of books lately, and as I wait for The Orphan’s Tales to turn up (thanks Lunameth), I’m following the guidance of Stacey B. Stacey B works for We Love this Book, and tweeted about how much she enjoyed The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber the other day. As it was on my shelf, I’ve picked it up. The narrative is second-person present, which I’m not used to, so I’m having to quickly learn!

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A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Headline: paperback published 2011: 688 pages

It begins with absence and desire.

It begins with blood and fear.

It begins with a discovery of witches.

A world of witches, daemons and vampires.

A manuscript which holds the secrets of their past and the key to their future.

Diana and Matthew – the forbidden love at the heart of it.

Two words. Epic disappointment. I don’t know exactly what I expected from something likened to Twilight and described as paranormal romance, but I was deeply influenced by the reduced price and title, which promised so many good things (like a story set in Puritan America and lots of burning-at-the-stake type ideas). It was also set in Oxford (for a part) which I have a bit of a love for thanks to Philip Pullman. Oxford seems to hold its own magic. But, either way, whatever the reasons, I really had to force myself to read this. I kept hoping that it would get better – that I wasn’t revisiting the wasted hours spent reading the angst-heavy pages of Twilight for an older generation. I hoped that the idea of vampires, daemons and witches would be less… literal, and more metaphorical or symbolic. How I was disappointed.

There are very few books I refuse to finish – it feels wrong to leave something half-read when so much work has been put into it (yes, even rubbish books are the love child of their authors and represent the graft of years and years of torture). The only one that springs to mind is War and Peace; I got an inch in and was so bewildered I genuinely didn’t feel I was losing out by putting it down. I can’t even remember what that first inch entailed.

So I finished it. I think that’s all I can really say about this book.

Rating: 4/10

Next book: Another recommendation from the friend who first directed me to the magic of Dresden, I will be moving on to Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding. As a small example of this particular friend’s genius, check out her Etsy! Just nip across to Lola Sees Stars on Facebook whilst you’re at it.

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